Divestment (also called disinvestment) is the practice of giving up or selling shares. You might find yourself divesting out of principle if you object to a company’s policies or practices, either because you have only just become aware of them or because the company has begun to engage in a new activity.

Divestment may also come about if you have changed your opinion on something, or in the case of a church, adopted a new policy.

In practice, divestment by churches and other institutions usually happens only after attempts to persuade a company to change its policy or practices. It may well be a last resort.

This is often a difficult decision. On the one hand, you will lose the chance to use your position as a shareholder to influence the company. On the other hand (particularly if you are an organisation with a large number of shares), your divestment may affect the company’s reputation, especially if you do a good job of publicising your decision.

You may feel that there is little chance of this happening if you are an individual shareholder or a small organisation, such as a local church. However, if you liaise with others who have also divested, or agree to divest at the same time and publicise this, you may have more of an impact.